Island retreat inspires teens towards STEM study and career pathways

27 October 2021

High school students from Gladstone and Tully were treated to a range of unique and interactive activities designed to fuel their passion for science' technology' engineering' and mathematics (STEM) when CQUniversity hosted the annual Santos Science Experience.

The Santos Science Experience is a series of programs that expose students to the fascinating world of STEM and highlights the diverse range of careers that allow students to pursue their scientific interests and abilities.

Sixty Year 9 and 10 students participated in the three-day program' where they were guided through an array of activities by experienced STEM professionals.

Kicking off the program' students set sail for Quoin Island Retreat to immerse themselves in five exciting rotations' including educational downloads on microplastics and seagrasses' testing water quality' and a special visit to the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre.

Program organiser CQUniversity Senior Lecturer Australia Pacific LNG STEM Central Lead Dr Linda Pfeiffer said the program provides students with a glimpse into university education and shines a light on the various STEM career pathways.

"We have been running this event for seven years' and each year the students are surprised at the wide variety of pathways available through a career in STEM'" Dr Pfeiffer said.

"We are very lucky to be able to utilise the excellent facilities at Quoin Island Retreat and provide the students with hands-on experience.

"The students particularly enjoy the visit to the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre' learning about the work the centre does and the different studying options they can undertake at university to contribute to the health of the marine environment."

CQUniversity's Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre (CMERC) Research Fellow Dr Angela Capper led students through a series of activities that highlighted the increasing issue of microplastics found in our waterways.

"Most of the students had heard of microplastics before' but what they didn't know is just how many microplastics could be present at their local beach and the impact they have on the marine environment'" Dr Capper said.

"One student said how surprised she was at the number of microplastics found in just one 50 cm squared area on the beach.

"Microplastics are a growing concern for our marine environment and it's really important that we raise awareness now."

The on-campus activities involved exploring virtual reality and drones' conducting light paintings' deep diving into the mysterious world of robotic coding' and campus tours.

With previous events held in Bundaberg' Rockhampton' and Townsville' Dr Pfeiffer said the feedback she receives from students' parents' and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive and she hopes to encourage more students to explore the pathways available and help them achieve their potential.